It was fantastic to see greyhound racing command so much attention on Monday as the 10.21 at Perry Barr kicked off live UK sporting action post-lockdown - and the sport’s intention will be to build on that.
Mark Bird, GBGB managing director, has confirmed a new commercial director is to be appointed - and would have been in situ had the coronavirus pandemic not forced a shutdown. He or she will work closely with the PR companies who support the Board - and who excelled over the weekend ahead of the sport’s own 'project restart'.
However, none of that coverage could have happened without the hard work and diligence of track staff, trainers and kennelhands who prepared for Monday’s return with two weeks of trials at UK tracks, observing strict social distancing and biosecurity measures - as described in the GBGB’s Operational Policy.
It enabled greyhound racing to lead the way. It had been the last show in town before lockdown and was the first back, beating horse racing by a few hours. Being first out of the traps was a headline writer’s dream and ensured coverage across widespread national media - from the BBC to the tabloids.
That interest will continue given live sport - horses, greyhounds and snooker aside - remains at a premium so there are opportunities aplenty, although clearly not initially to attract additional custom through the gate given a behind-closed-doors policy.
However, streaming and a much-improved online presence will meet the demand of the betting industry ahead of the anticipated reopening of betting shops from June 15, which will see the Arc/TRP and SIS services fed through as pictures providers.
Linked to the above, expect to hear news imminently of evening greyhound coverage provided by Sky Sports Racing - starting this week.
It is understood one meeting per night will be shown alongside US horse racing coverage on those nights where there is no UK evening horse racing and these will be tracks covered by the Arc service.
Most of the major kennels have been represented already in graded races at tracks, although those trainers with predominantly open racers in their kennel will be keenly awaiting a revised open-race schedule.
The Irish Greyhound Board released a list of their major events last week and the GBGB are in the process of compiling theirs.
The BoyleSports Irish Greyhound Derby Final takes place at Shelbourne Park on September 19 and, with an August start date, it has been suggested a Star Sports, Arc and LPS English Greyhound Derby could take place at Nottingham in July.
This would be behind closed doors, although would be televised. However, an October date would likely ensure a paying public could be allowed in to witness the world’s greatest greyhound race unfold. Again, an announcement is expected soon.
A trainer merry-go-round was prompted by the sad closure of Peterborough, with Nottingham, Henlow and Towcester taking a number of handlers between them.
However, one famous handler has since announced his retirement, with David Pruhs hanging up his racing leads.
Jordan Jones worked as a kennelhand with Pruhs until last November. He is now back home in Wales, rearing and schooling a litter of pups.
Jones, a regular visitor for schooling sessions at the Valley track, is weighing up his options but has not ruled out taking out a licence out himself.
Meanwhile, the Poole-based trainers also left without anywhere to race their greyhounds until the Dorset track reopens are being catered for at Swindon.
Trials took place for Poole-based dogs this weekend and inter-tracks are being scheduled to help with the re-qualifying process.